When it comes to a saxophone one of your idols may have played, how much is too much? Today’s offering for your consideration: a stunningly beautiful, and very customized, Leblanc-stencilled Vito alto, that once belong to the late Johnny Hodges.
The upper octave key has a snake’s head complete with diamonds in its eyes.
The alto is covered in rich engraving, and has extra inlaid mother of pearl key touches on the right and left palm keys.
As you can see in the above photo, this horn has a combo of brass and silver. However, it is exactly the opposite of the King Silversonic horns. Whereas they had solid silver necks and bells, along with brass body tubes and bows, this horn has a silver plated body tube and bow (according to the seller), combined with a brass neck and bell. I wonder why? It does seem rather counter-intuitive.
As mentioned at the start of this article, this particular Leblanc-stencilled Vito alto that is currently being offered for sale on eBay, apparently once belonged to jazz legend Johnny Hodges. The seller attached the following photo to the auction, in which Hodges appears to be using the instrument for a recording session.
The description the seller provides is incredibly long, in part no doubt due to the incredibly high price being asked for the horn (80K opening bid, and 120K BIN). Through the description however, it becomes clear that the seller is not a saxophone player, or is at least not familiar with the 3 models of Leblanc saxophones.
This Leblanc-stencilled Vito alto is a Leblanc System saxophone, not a Leblanc Rationale as the seller states in this rather verbose ad…
(note: this item is now re-listed and re-priced to reflect it’s pedigree and historic value. Please read the entire description carefully before emailing your questions)
I am extremely proud to offer one of Johnny Hodges’s personal alto saxophones, owned and played by the jazz giant from The Duke Ellington Jazz Orchestra. Over the years Johnny Hodges played a few different horns including another one with a snakes head on top of the octave key.
We believe this horn came along later in Johnny Hodges’s career.
It is currently owned and played by another jazz great Frank Wess who acquired it from Johnny Hodges’s estate.
The horn has been lovingly cared for, professionally maintained and kept in perfect playable condition by Tomoji Hirakata in NYC.
I have received a lot of mail asking for more information and better documentation, which I completely understand.
I hope this will answer most of your concerns:
This auction has been limited to the US as per the request of my client and a few other interested parties, they have specifically asked that the horn not leave the country.
I have been having great trouble finding more pictures of Johnny Hodges playing this horn.
Frank remembers him playing the horn on a few record dates.
I finally found one photo of Johnny Hodges playing the horn !
The photo is in a book called “Jazz Giants” A Visual Retrospective compiled by K.Abe
the photo was taken by Arthur Singer in 1967.
I’m sure you will recognize the other people in the photo !
Frank Wess purchased the horn from Johnny Hodges’s widow. (this is the story according to Frank!)
Frank played this horn while he was with The Toshiko Akiyoshi Big Band.
Both myself and the folks at ebay are very aware of the fraudulent auction that took place earlier. I am in no way on heaven or earth connected to that auction.
I spent over an hour on the phone with some very high level execs at ebay to get permission to have this auction and I have been thoroughly vetted by both Ebay and PayPal to host an auction of this magnitude.
I’ve had an easier time applying for a mortgage !
Please feel free to contact Ebay to verify for yourself.
At this time a conversation with Frank Wess is difficult but not impossible.
But I would only arrange such a thing for someone who has already made a bid.
If more information or documentation (beyond fellow jazz musicians eye witness accounts) becomes available to me I will add it the the auction.
The best information I have is the horn was made and engraved by Beaugnier (France) and then, maybe assembled in the US.
The key system you can call “Leblanc Rationale” System.
The Johnny Hodges horn is a Leblanc Rationale with the Vito name on it. The Vito model had all adjustments by cork; the Leblanc had the fancy set screws and small nuts throughout for registration. The Rationale system was described as “The Boehm system for sax”. The design was by Hovenhaghel in the 1930′s but never caught on. It allows many alternate fingerings. Do doubt something Johnny Hodges was keen to make good use of.
It is silver plating over the brass.
I found one tone hole that does not have coating on and it has green stuff. (it’s clean now)
This green stuff is a byproduct of prolonged human contact on untreated brass.
As you can see in the photos it has been cleaned and restored.
Brass can be : Yellow brass 70%copper, 30% zinc
Red Brass 85% copper, 15% zinc.
And Nickel Silver 67%copper, 18%nickel, 15%zinc.
Please view the photos and you will see this horn has been meticulously maintained and is not just a flawless musical instrument but it is also a work of art. “Johnny Hodges” is engraved inside the bell.
You can also view the YouTube video where you can hear Frank Wess speak a little about the horn while you see how well it has been cared for. (Yes, there really are diamonds in the eyes of the snake)
Ebay only allows for 12 pictures but I have many more which I will email to you upon request.
The white mouthpiece with Johnny Hodges’s name etched on the side is included in this sale, as is the case. It is the original Leblanc case.
Terms of this auction are firm and are as follows:
I do not sell privately, or make any sales outside of Ebay.
I do not accept any payment method other than PayPal.
All sales are final.
How I ship:
Ebay and PayPal insist that I ship with a tracking number.
I plan on using UPS with 2 to 3 day delivery and I will ask for a signature to guarantee proof of delivery.
I will ship with a tracking number to satisfy both Ebay and PayPal, myself, my client, and the buyer.
The buyer will pay for the shipping & handling as well as the insurance.
I am perfectly willing to discuss other shipping methods with the winning bidder.
Please feel free to email me with any questions or requests, and please bid with confidence.
Who am “I” ??
I am Michelle Dodgion. The youngest daughter of saxophonist Jerry Dodgion.
I got my start as an Ebay trading assistant helping out my dad by selling some of his saxophones, mouthpieces, etc on Ebay.
One thing led to another and now I do this for many of my, and my dads friends.
Frank Wess is one of our most favorite people on earth !
And Johnny Hodges was one of my dad’s and Frank’s greatest influences.
It is my great honor and pleasure to assist Frank with this sale.
This saxophone represents a legacy, a love, and a respect for some of the greatest music ever played in human history.
It is my wish and intension that the person who purchases this legendary instrument continues this tradition.
Here are the remaining photos of this Leblanc-stencilled Vito alto:
I don’t know about any of you, but even if I had $120,000 extra lying around, I don’t think I’d be spending it on one of Johnny Hodges’ former saxophones. Sure Johnny Hodges was one of the most influential saxophone players of the 20th century, but $120,000, regardless of how lovely it is, for one of his saxophones?
I generally buy big-ticket items because they are a good investment. With this, personally, I’m just not seeing it.
Investment is of course only one reason people buy big-ticket stuff. There are lots of other reasons, and if this seller is lucky, she will find the right buyer for the horn.
Just as in real estate, where it takes just one buyer to sell your house, the same is true in the vintage and collector sax market. The trick is to find just that right someone to buy your horn.
I wish the seller luck in finding someone who will drop $80,000 as an opening bid, or $120,000 for the Buy It Now price, before the auction ends on June 8.
BTW in case you’re interested, as the seller mentioned this is a re-list. The original auction ended on June 1. The prices then were: $150,000 as an opening bid, with a Buy It Now price of $200,000. Kinda’ makes John Coltrane’s Yamaha alto for $115,000 look like a bargain, doesn’t it?
…this is just my blog. My “real” website is www.bassic-sax.info. If you’re looking for sax info,
you should check it out too.There’s lots there!